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When Vegans Crash and Burn — Ex Vegans Going Back to Meat

I’ve been getting some questions lately from readers who are afraid to go on a raw vegan diet because of the possible negative consequences of staying vegan in the long-term.

Almost everybody I know has a friend who allegedly went vegan or vegetarian, but then suffered some sort of health problem or deficiency, went back to meat and now feels “much better.”

These stories, along with famous or semi-famous ex-vegans that come out of the closet, are enough to scare most newbies and convince them to give up the diet for good.

Recently, the actress Ginnifer Goodwin gave up her vegan diet after years of outspoken animal activism, for “health reasons.” Other famous actresses like Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel have also given up the vegan diet as well.

A young raw foodist from Turkey, Erim Bilgim, that I had a chance to meet during my travels last year, also went off the raw vegan diet and started eating meat again in addition to his 80/10/10 style diet. He attracted some attention in the raw food community after being interviewed by the website, a site that interviews ex-vegans.

These stories are enough to scare away some vegans, but also give some ammunition to your friends and family who don’t approve of your lifestyle.

Why Vegans Crash and Burn

First of all, I have to state that I am not one of those judgmental vegans. If a person decides to give up a diet for whatever reason, I am not here to criticize their decision. After all, it’s their lives and they can do whatever they want.

I also don’t consider myself to be a true “vegan,” because on rare occasions, a few times a year, I might have some animal products. I don’t do it out of fear of deficiency, but simply on some social occasions, or just to prove that I’m not a vegan.

For example, while I was traveling around the world last year for 8 months, there were a few occasions were being a 100% vegan was just too difficult. So I slipped a few times during the trip, but mostly because there were very few options available.

Overall, my diet is 99.5% vegan/plant based by definition.

What I want to emphasize is that just being vegan is really not a health choice, but more an ethical choice.

The vegan diet, in itself, can be healthy or unhealthy. It is not by definition a healthy diet, because a vegan could choose to eat unhealthy foods and still call herself a pure “vegan.”

Here are some of the common mistakes that vegans and raw vegans make:

1) Too much fat, especially omega 6 fats

Vegans cut out saturated fats, but often replace it with vegetable oils and other fat sources, which means that their diet is not only high in fat, but also very high in omega-6 fats.

For example, many plant foods contain a lot of omega 6 but very little omega 3.

Take a look at the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in some common plant foods. The first number is the omega-6:

English Walnuts 4:1
Macadamia 6:1
Pecans 20:1
Pistachio 37:1
Hazelnut 88:1
Cashew 117:1
Pumpkin Seeds 117:1
Sunflower Seeds 300:1
Pine Nuts 300:1
Brazil Nuts 1000:1
Almonds 1800:1
Avocado: 15:1
Flax Seeds 1:3.1
Chia seeds 1:3

As you can tell, many plant foods are too rich in omega-6 and not rich enough in omega-3.

Many ex-vegans have blamed the vegan diet for being too low in omega-3. But research has shown that the real problem is that we get too much added omega-6 fat! We’re told to eat healthy fats, like the foods above, but in fact they are throwing our ratios way off.

Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats promote inflammation in the body. When you eat too much of it, it competes with your absorption of omega-3 fats, which are anti-inflammatory.

The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is between 1:1 and 4:1.

Fruits and vegetables, as well as other low-fat plant foods, have a natural ratio of 1:1.

If most of your calories come from these foods, then adding a bit of higher fat plant foods with lots of omega-6 will not overthrow your balance. However, if a significant proportion of your calories come from these plant foods and oils, you are in trouble.

We can see that most vegans and raw vegans not only get too much fat but also promote omega-3 deficiencies through an overconsumption of omega-6 fats.

2) Too much fat in general

Vegans eliminate unhealthy animal protein, but often replace it with foods that are very high in fat, even higher than animal foods. Raw foodists do the same with an overreliance on nuts, seeds and avocados.

Too much fat in the diet now only promotes heart disease and cancer, but it also affects every aspect of your health negatively. It’s also much easier to gain weight eating fatty foods rather than eating low-fat, carbohydrate-rich foods.

Too much fat does the following and more to your body:

– Negatively affects insulin sensitivity and promotes diabetes and high-blood sugar
– Is easily converted into body fat and promotes weight gain
– Negatively affects energy levels and athletic performance due to lower oxygen uptake
– Promotes inflammation and omega-3 deficiencies
– Negatively affects digestion and nutrient absorption
– Promotes heart disease and high cholesterol, as even vegetable fats contain appreciable quantities of saturated fats (like coconut and palm oil)

Some raw food recipes especially, but also vegan “junk” food, can be especially rich in fat and calories. Compare for example:

Big Mac

Big Mac w/ Large Fries

Raw Vegan Taco*


570 calories

1040 calories

1500 calories


34 grams

54 grams

142 grams


24 grams

31 grams

30 grams


47 grams

108 grams

57 grams


1070 mg


1700 mg

*For the Raw Taco recipe, I used a recipe found at: com/2009/04/genuinely-meaty-raw-taco-meat with-chunky-guacamole-and-fresh- cherry-tomato-jalapeno-salsa/. It is made with mushrooms, walnuts, olive oil, raw cacao, tomatoes, avocado, pine nuts, and a few other seasonings.

As I discovered while writing my book Raw Food Controversies, a raw food recipe like “Raw Tacos” can contain more calories, more fat, and more sodium that an order of a Big Mac with large fries at McDonalds!

For raw vegans, sources of fats include olive oil, coconut oil, flax oil, avocado, nuts and seeds — all of which are often used in large quantities in every recipe.

For cooked vegans, fat sources that pile up include: all oils, fried foods like fries, chips, donuts, crackers, “Earth Balance” products, coconut milk, vegan cheeses, “sour creams”, and fake meat products like Tofurkey.

Vegans should make the center of their meals low-fat, high-carbohydrate foods like fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, and only use higher-fat foods as condiments for flavour, if they are to be used at all.

Raw vegans need to make the center of each meal fruit, and eat plenty of it to meet their caloric needs. Greens should be consumed for minerals, and fatty foods should be used as condiments, not as the main ingredient in a dish like raw tacos or burgers.

3) Vegans could be deficient in Vitamin b12

Vitamin B12 deficiencies are common in vegans, especially raw vegans who don’t take any supplement. Many symptoms can be attributed to a B12 deficiency, including fatigue and failure to thrive.

The standard recommendation is to take a B12 supplement containing 25 to 100 mcg every day, or one containing at least 1000 mcg three times a week. If you’ve been on a vegan diet for a while, you might start with some B12 injections, as low B12 levels can actually prevent absorption from dietary or supplemental B12. Taking an oral supplement later, can be too little too late, so get tested for deficiencies if you are concerned.

Vegans who don’t make these mistakes

Some vegans and raw foodists say that they don’t make these mistakes, but yet still don’t feel right and think they should go back to meat in order to feel better. In many cases, cleaning up your diet, eating whole foods, getting enough calories without too much fat is enough to make a difference. In other cases, more complex factors may be at play.

For example, some vegans, especially raw foodists, overly restrict their diet by eating only a few types of food. This type of nutritional narrowness can lead to some deficiencies, overtime.

How Can You Be a Healthier Vegan?

Vegans and raw vegans can make some simple changes to immediately improve their diet and their health.

1) Get rid of all oil in your house. Avoid drizzling oil on your salads, instead, use low-fat salad dressings. homemade is best.

2) Whenever you make a recipe, just omit the oil and usually it will taste just as good without it!

3) Avoid using nuts, seeds or avocados as a main ingredient in any recipe.

4) Vegans beware of vegan products that are often too rich in fat, such as “Earth Balance” “Toffutti” products, “Daiya Cheese,” “Gimme Leans” “Gardein” products and other dairy or meat replacement.

5) Raw vegans: learn to eat fruit as the center piece of your meal, instead of raw recipes that are high in fat, or salads that will leave you hungry 30 minutes later.

6) Minimize the use of all processed plant foods, including ALL oils, sugar, agave, white flours, etc.

To discover how to make delicious, SAVORY, and OIL-FREE raw food recipes that taste great for dinner time, check out the recently launched product Savory Raw Dinner Recipes! We have a special bonus and more, offered during the launch only. Go to:


Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets.